It's been ages, if ever, since Alabama was this good in men's basketball. The program has certainly never been this entertaining or cutting-edge.
The Crimson Tide's road win against Mississippi State over the weekend clinched their first regular-season SEC title in 19 years. At 14-2 in the conference, Alabama's won its most league games since 1986-87.
Nate Oats came to Alabama in 2019 via Buffalo, where he built a mid-major behemoth in short order and made the rapid ascent from public high school coach (and math teacher) to one of the hottest mid-major coaches in a few years' time. Oats has overhauled Alabama in less than two years by deducing simple equations out of complex problems. His players and colleagues have bought in along the way, and because of that, the calculus for what Alabama's expectations should be in basketball — not within the SEC, but nationally — have shifted.
It's now March. No. 6 Alabama (19-6) is in the hunt for something it's never accomplished: a No. 1 seed (it's projected a No. 2 seed in the latest Bracketology). How it's done this so quickly is no accident, but it's also not much of a secret. Oats is disposed to disclose his methods for success; he knows it takes more than a cheat sheet and a willingness to love modern analytics in order to scale to the highest level of college basketball. Watch Alabama play and be riveted. The Tide fly. They defend like hell. They shoot fun shots while ebbing and flowing with avidity, rubber-banding back and forth to both ends of the court. At their best, Alabama's ceiling might be as high as any team not named Gonzaga.